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Home Office to consult on plans for group premises intervention power

The Home Office has today unveiled plans for a group premises intervention power, improvements to the Late Night Levy and a further round of Local Alcohol Action Areas.

The proposals are contained in the Government’s first Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, which can be viewed here. Alcohol is one of six drivers of crime around which the strategy has been developed. The others are: opportunity, character, the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System, profit, and drugs.

The Strategy document claims that the group review intervention power could help local authorities and the police in cases where partnership working has broken down and problems are concentrated in a particular geographical area.

“This will enhance licensing authorities’ ability to manage the night-time economy in their area, for example by requiring better security at premises, or measures to reduce the risk of alcohol-related violence,” the document argues.

It adds that where there are serious concerns about individual premises, the licensing authority will continue to use the existing review process; “the group review intervention power would not itself result in the closure of premises”.

The Strategy also proposes improving the Late Night Levy by making it “more flexible for local areas, fairer to business and more transparent”.

The Government plans to create a greater role for Police and Crime Commissioners, by giving them a right to request that local authorities consult on introducing a levy to contribute towards the cost of policing the evening and night-time economy.

Other proposals in relation to "equipping local authorities and the police with the right powers" include:

  • Putting cumulative impact policies (CIPs) on a statutory footing, “to strengthen the ability of authorities to control the availability of alcohol and reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder, as well as providing industry with greater clarity about how they can be used”.
  • Future-proofing changes to the police workforce by giving civilian staff powers of entry to enter and inspect licensed premises. “The Policing and Crime Bill gives civilian staff, under the command of a chief constable, the right to enter premises to inspect whether licensed activity is taking place in accordance with licence conditions.”

The document adds that the Government is committed to introducing sobriety as a court imposed community order to reduce alcohol-related reoffending. The Ministry of Justice is to use the available evidence to establish the best model for achieving this, including the evaluation of a pilot in London, led by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

The Home Office says it also want to improve the amount and quality of local intelligence. In this respect the Government will:

  • Publish information about where alcohol-related crime and disorder is occurring on
  • Encourage the police to make the best use of data and to share information with local authorities and businesses where appropriate. “Licensed premises should also continue to make information available to the police and other emergency services about individuals who have caused problems in the night time economy”
  • Expect more local NHS trusts to share information about alcohol-related violence to support licensing decisions taken by local authorities and the police, adopting the success of the Cardiff Model.
  • Encourage licensing authorities to share information about individuals and premises that have had their licences revoked to enable other licensing authorities to put in place relevant conditions or refuse licence applications from individuals and businesses known to have operated poorly run premises.
  • Work with partner organisations including the Local Government Association and Public Health England to ensure that local authorities have the right analytical tools and capability to make effective use of the information made available to them.

The Strategy document suggests that strong, sustained and effective partnership working are at the heart of successful management of the evening and night time economy. “Government has a role facilitating partnership working, but the day-to-day management of the evening and night time economy can only be done locally.”

To develop effective partnership working locally, the documents says the Government will:

  • Launch a new round of Local Alcohol Action Areas. “The new programme will strengthen the capacity and capability of local areas to build effective partnerships, address alcohol-related harms by focusing on a number of core challenges, and provide access to experts and advice. Areas will be able to bid for inclusion in the programme, which will launch in autumn 2016.”
  • Work with industry partners to support businesses locally to continue to take action to prevent crime. This will include: providing support to local authorities, the police and health partners to create safe spaces to reduce the burden of drunkenness on the police and A&E Departments as well as enable people concerned for their safety to take action to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of crime; removing potential flash points from premises by designing out crime; supporting local authorities to diversify the night-time economy where the consumption of alcohol is secondary to other activities in the evening and night time economy; developing the night-time economy workforce to prevent problems inside and outside premises; supporting staff locally to take action, “for example by introducing ‘Challenge 25’ as standard, encouraging the responsible sale, marketing and promotion of alcohol in the off- and on-trades and improving knowledge of the law on the sale of alcohol to drunks”; improving the use of guidance on the way in which alcohol is sold in both the off-trade and the on-trades; continuing to support partnership-based initiatives such as Pubwatch, Best Bar None, Community Alcohol Partnerships and Purple Flag, as well as the Proof of Age Standards Scheme and Drinkaware. “We will expect industry to extend these schemes where necessary, not just by introducing them to new areas, but increasing involvement by other people involved in the evening and night time economy, particularly door staff, street pastors, and those working in the off-trade, and making them more public facing”.
  • Influence positive behaviour change among individual consumers, "for example through the provision of brief interventions outside a traditional healthcare setting for both offenders and victims".
  • Pursue a life-course approach to preventing the onset of alcohol misuse, and its escalation, "through supporting a universal approach combined with more targeted action for the most vulnerable".

Commenting on the strategy, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We will be studying the proposals in detail, but I welcome the overall emphasis on personal responsibility and partnership working. A new round of LAAAs (Local Alcohol Action Areas) is welcome, and we will certainly play our part in making them a success.

“Our main area of concern would be around any new powers. We haven’t supported the introduction of Late Night Levies, which is a tax on pubs, so making them easier to introduce is not something we welcome, given the success of partnership working.”

The proposed group review intervention powers were also a concern, Simmonds said. “There are already sufficient licensing powers and this is a potential departure from decisions being considered on their merits, and on a case-by-case basis – a fundamental principle of the current licensing system.

“We will want to work closely with the Home Office as they develop these proposals further.”

In a separate announcement the Home Secretary said an agreement of principles had been reached between major retailers and the government to tackle knife crime.

Theresa May said Tesco, Lidl UK, Amazon UK, Wilko, Argos, Morrisons, Asda, Poundland, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, and Waitrose had committed to regular staff training, safely displaying and securely packaging knives, raising public awareness of age restrictions, and robust age verification checks for knife sales whether in-store, or if ordered online, at point of collection or delivery.

UK and Amazon have also made commitments for their respective marketplaces.

The voluntary principles include a commitment for law enforcement to conduct follow-up test purchases of knives in six months and to provide feedback to retailers to take action to tackle breaches of the law. The Government will work with the British Retail Consortium to extend this agreement to other retailers.

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